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Monday, April 16, 2007

To Cover or Not To Cover

by Holy Hyrax

“Do you think it’s bad if I took off my hair covering?”
This is the question that came out of nowhere last night from my wife. I really did not know what to answer her. My wife has always had a hard time covering her hair. We are both BT’s and instead of slowly taking this upon her, she covered everything immediately after the wedding. We were so influenced by people around us, especially her. She would go to all sorts of “exciting” women’s lecture about tzniut and be inspired. Eventually, all that hockey bubble-gum stuff wears off and true emotions that lurk within start to come out.

My wife has amazingly beautiful curly hair. Now, I’m not talking about regular curls, we are talking about high-quality-curly-fries curls like some Yeminite women have. My family, who are Russian, were so enamored by it that my grandmother would just start caressing them. She really stuck out in celebrations :) She really misses fixing her hair and walking down the streets feeling free. I miss seeing it fixed more often. Curtly hair like that apparently takes a long time to be fixed.

Now, let's add me to the equation. Whoever has been following my rants knows I am stuck not knowing were to go in Judaism. I’m not sure if I believe in TMS. I don’t keep most mitzvoth and that sort of atmosphere that I have created, has affected my wife obviously. She no longer does Birkat Hamazon as she used to for example. Add to all this that I would openly tell her and others that I would be happiest if my wife just left Judaism. That way, I would not be torn anymore and we can go on with our lives the way we were together before becoming frum. Now, it seems she is taking another step in the direction I so desired.

So why then am I not happy?

I thought I would be ecstatic, but I’m not. Why is this hair covering issue such a soft spot, but yet when she stopped doing Birkat Hamazon, I had no problems. I always told her that if you absolutely detest the hair covering, then she should take off. No one should do something that makes them so miserable every time they look at themselves in the mirror. So what am I going to tell her now, to keep it on because its halachah? That’s a bit hypocritical of me I think. So many thoughts came crashing into my head after she asked me that, that I ACTUALLY found myself, for some strange reason, trying to defend hair coverings. I started blabbing about it being a positive sign for our daughters. She then said that ANYTHING she does can be a positive influence on our daughters. Of course then she had to say: “Ohhhhhhh, so now all of a sudden you WANT me to cover my hair.” But is this true? Is there something unique in a woman covering her hair that I am all of a sudden forced to reevaluate?

21 comments:

  1. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I suspect you feel differently about the hair covering because other people will see it and you're worried what they will think. It's a natural feeling, but perhaps once you realize that's what's going on (if it is indeed) you'll want to overcome.

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  2. Could your hesitation have to do with the fact that hair covering is such a public display of the non-adherence to halacha? Your wife might not always say Birkat Hamazon, but how many other people really realize that the way they will once she stops covering her hair? Could it be because you don't want to deal with questions from the outside, from the scrutiny of others? I don't know that much about your situation, or whether you wear a yarmulke all the time, but if you do, how do you feel about not wearing it in public places? Is it similar to how you feel about your wife not covering her hair?

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  3. Well you guys bring up good points. If the public wasn't as judgement as they tend to be once a woman stops wearing, perhaps it would be easier for me to accept her uncovering her hair. Having to deal with peoples question IS a pain, but its mostly just annoying, so actually, and to be honost, I'm not sure that is the main reason. A reason, but not the main reason perhaps.

    I for one, stoped wearing my kippa for two years. I had to deal with questions, but, the hell with the people. The questions as to why I stopped wearing it did not stop me. They asked once, and they never asked again. Now I do wear a kippa

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  4. I just thought of something else. About a year or two after I'd stopped wearing a kippah, started eating non-kosher, and was just generally not religious, I remember lending a friend a small amount of money and being really weird about it when she wanted me to keep the change when she paid back. I mean, taking interest from a Jew is against halakha!! Then she pointed out how silly I was being.

    What I'm saying is that the rules get ingrained in us, so our initial reactions may not match our more reasoned responses.

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  5. I'd think that's less applicable here, when it's a BT.

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  6. Perhaps, its a matter of me being used to my wife covering her hair for the past 4.5 years that it just feels weird for me to see her without it. Arrggh. Who knows?

    All my ranting to my wife to leave orthodoxy and now I'm conflicted over a hair covering???? Go figure

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  7. or maybe its the fact, that a females hair, no matter how hard this is to comprehend,is seductive and inticing. Maybe you don't want anyone else (especially those of the male persuasion)thinking, like your grandma, and having thoughts of caressing YOUR wifes hair. Its for you and only you, its a special thing between a husband and wife, maybe you dont want her brining that personal p;art of your marriage, out into the world, for all to see and feel. Thats where the halakah of covering hair came from, its seductive, and the hell with what other people think (read the motto on the top of this blog). It shouldbe what you think and what you want, personally I dont want to share my hair with every other man in the street ( and believe me, I too, have beautiful curls), I want my husband to enjoy it, and for it to be for his eyes too, and he wouldnt want anyone else to be part of that private bond. You have a valid point, you dont have to think your conflicted if you want a p;rivate and intimate part of your marriage to stay private and intimate!

    This is the better half of serandez, btw!

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  8. HA!

    Serach is commenting on MY post.

    Ok Serach, I have a feeling you misunderstood the post a bit. First of all, I agree with you that a womans hair is a seductive part of her. How much is already a subjective question. But on the other hand, so is a womans leg, and it never bothered me that my wife wears knee high skirts that show some of her leg. The same thing goes for her hair. I can tell you that it really does not bother me that some other guy sees my wifes hair.

    Do men really get bothered that a wifes hair is showing outside the fact that they feel she must do it cause its halacha? I mean, its not the same thing as if a woman shows some cleavage.

    I am conflicted because all of a sudden, I am not sure I want her to take off the hair covering, but it has nothing to do with the fact I want her to share it only with me. I soooo wished that my wife would abandon Judaism, which would mean I would be able to leave it, which would mean we can take our kids out of OJ schools. But now, she is ridding herself of something that seems to have identified herself as orthodox, and I'm not sure I want her to.

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  9. Is that really what defines her orthodoxy? just cus shell take off her hair covering dosent mean shes ridding her orthodox identification. Maybe you just feel like you are the one who has all the conflicting questions and you want to abandon OJ but you are struggling, cus maybe deep down you know there are answers, you just gotta ask the right person. But your afraid if your wife, who has been the strong one, the one who has been bounding and holding together the Orthodoxy in your union, if she takes off her hair covering, then the binding is torn and you are free, to just abandon orthodoxy, without even having to ask your questions, you get a free pass cus shes shes giving it to you. Its not the best comparision, but its perhaps like someone who has struggles with their weight their whole life. They are finally on a strict diet, and their wife is supportive and helpful., participating alongside in a strict excersise regimen and providing three healthy meals a day. Then one day the wife decides that shes finished, and cant take it anymore, and she says she will no longer provide the meals and will only be buying junk food. But the guy is pissed, cus on one hand, he wants to adhere to the diet, on the other he wants to eat what he wants and not be on a stupid diet but he is struggling. Hes worked so hard on this diet, why should it be so easy 4 him to just quit, if hes gonna quit it should be a struggle, not that his wife sticks junk food in his mouth, rather hes tried the diet and others and it hasen't worked, this free pass is there, but is not the means to which he wanted to get that free pass, he wanted to work for it, struggle, maybe try the diet, not have this free pass so readily available, when hes finally trying and struggling so hard in the opposite direction.

    im trying dude- ultimately youll do whats best for you, "rak adam Yodeah, macshivot Liboh" (I belive its in a mishleh or a miforesh on it.)Good Luck either way.

    again it serach!

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  10. Is that really what defines her orthodoxy?

    Its definetly not what defines her, but lets face it, its some sort of identifing marker. If Ezzie was to take off his kippa and tzitziot (ahem ahem) would he still be orthodox? Ofcourse, but it certainly something that ads to it. Kind of hard to explain it, but I think you know what I mean.

    And, you have to understand, my skepticism has influenced her. She used to pray more often for example. If I was more supportive about her covering her hair, it would have helped her along these hard times... but I haven't. And now, she wants to take if off, I feel I am loosing something.

    Maybe you just feel like you are the one who has all the conflicting questions and you want to abandon OJ but you are struggling, cus maybe deep down you know there are answers, you just gotta ask the right person

    Talk to Ezzie, he will tell you that I have searched, and searched, and searched and searched....

    But your afraid if your wife, who has been the strong one, the one who has been bounding and holding together the Orthodoxy in your union, if she takes off her hair covering, then the binding is torn and you are free, to just abandon orthodoxy

    Could be

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  11. Sounds like you're just not thrilled to be responsible for your own future to some extent... (Ez)

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  12. As an otherwise observant BT who does not cover her hair (and has been asked why not!) I must say that the "real me" is someone who presents myself as honestly as I can--as who I am. I'm just glad my husband doesn't want me to cover my hair. I would feel very uncomfortable covering my hair--just as I do about wearing a mogan David necklace. In a sense, I feel unworthy of such an "announcement,"that I am a Jew (because I am far from perfect) and in the same way, if I were to cover my hair, I'd feel I was suggesting a level of diligence and piety that I do not yet attain. I don't know you or your wife, but may I suggest that as you grapple with your ambivalence about her haircovering, you honor your wife's own process and leave such a decision to her.

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  13. SerandEz beat me to it.
    Looks to me like perhaps your experimentations, trials and doubts regarding Orthodoxy were safe, as long as your wife was the anchor that kept everything pretty stable.

    You could take the kipa off and know that you would be able to put it back on once you so desired, with your wife as the solid rock.

    Once she "uncovers" and it being quite a statement of her feelings, maybe you feel that there will be a "no way back" situation, and the responsibility and accountability for your actions really weigh on your shoulders.

    Just my two cents

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  14. Hyrax,

    I wrote a post about some similar issues.

    I won't try to tell you why you are upset by this, just suggest that you take some time to think about it all.

    I suspect that if you give yourself some time you can find some perspective.

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  15. but may I suggest that as you grapple with your ambivalence about her haircovering, you honor your wife's own process and leave such a decision to her.

    Something tells me she does not want me to leave it up to her alone. Perhaps, she wants me to give her a bit of "chizuk" so to speak.

    Sounds like you're just not thrilled to be responsible for your own future to some extent...

    How do you figure?

    Once she "uncovers" and it being quite a statement of her feelings, maybe you feel that there will be a "no way back" situation, and the responsibility and accountability for your actions really weigh on your shoulders.

    The first half of the comment was probably more on the mark. Its not that I dont take responsibility for my action. I did when I took a break from Judaism. Its just that for some reason, her hair covering, unlike other mitzvot symbolize for me that we are heading downhill now (from Judaism's POV).

    Thanks for the link Jack

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  16. Is it written somewhere that pretty hair is exempt from covering? That would go against the inner logic of covering.

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  17. I think it's scarier to know that you are influencing someone you love to become less religious than to become less religious yourself. As everyone here knows, I'm quite confident that I'm right about Orthodox Judaism being factually incorrect -- yet even I would feel kind of squeamish if I convinced (for example) my sister to stop being Orthodox -- or to take steps in that direction.

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  18. JA

    I assume you are not married. The influences I am talking about are not as extreme as it seems. Maybe I made it seem that way, but I don't start forcing her to read GH's blog (chas veshalom). Its more of the atmosphere in the home. If I stop doing things or caring much about anything, it does affect the people around.

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  19. HH,
    might i ask the specific reasons that your wife finds covering difficult?

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  20. Dont all woman find it difficult? :)

    a) She misses fixing her hair. What I mean is, since she has really curly curly hair, it requires alot of work so by the time she gets home from work, makes food, puts the kids to sleep, she is exhausted and ends up putting her hair in a bun. Generally, women due their hair in the morning for work, but she doesent, she covers it. AND, woman with straight hair, generally dont need as much hassle as my wife does. So I guess she misses looking at herself with her hair as it was before we got married.

    b) I have not given her that much support due to my skeptisism. Instead of giving chizuk, I just told her to take it off if she wants.

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